History of America 2000-Present
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The history of America 2000-present began with the attacks of September 11, 2001–the worst ever sustained by the United States. Four commercial airliners, hijacked by Islamic terrorists, crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the forest of Pennsylvania.
The late-2000s financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, was triggered by a liquidity crisis in the American banking system. This resulted in the Great Recession, in which large financial institutions collapsed, banks were bailed out by governments, and stock markets experienced wrenching declines.
The major demographic and social shifts that took place in American society after World War II became evident with the election of Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president.
From 2009 to 2010, Congress passed major legislation such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare. But as a result of growing public frustration with both parties in Congress since the beginning of the decade, Congressional approval ratings fell to record lows.
Watershed events include the rise of new political movements, including the conservative Tea Party movement and the liberal Occupy movement. The debate over the issue of rights for the LGBT community, including same-sex marriage, began to shift in favor of same-sex couples. In fact, President Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court provided for federal recognition of same-sex unions and then nationwide legalized gay marriage in 2015.
Political debate has continued over tax reform, immigration reform, income inequality, and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. This focused on global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and an accompanying climate of Islamophobia.
The late 2010s were marked by widespread social upheaval and change in the United States. The #MeToo movement gained popularity, exposing alleged sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. With that, multiple prominent celebrities were accused of misconduct or rape. During this period, the Black Lives Matter movement also gained support online, exacerbated by the police killings of multiple black Americans. Mass shootings, including the Pulse Nightclub shooting (2016) and the Las Vegas shooting, which claimed the lives of 61 people, led to increased calls for gun control and reform. Following the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in 2018, gun control advocates organized the March for our Lives, where millions of students across the country walked out of school to protest gun violence. Moreover, the Women’s March protest against Trump’s presidency in 2017 was one of the largest protests in American history.
In 2016, following a contentious election, Republican Donald Trump was elected president. The results of the election were called into question, and U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that associates of the Russian government interfered in the election “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process”. This, along with questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, led to investigations by the FBI and Congress.
During Trump’s presidency, he espoused an “America First” ideology. This placed restrictions on asylum seekers and imposing a widely controversial ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. Many of his executive orders and other actions were challenged in court. During his presidency, he also engaged the United States in a trade war with China, imposing a wide range of tariffs on Chinese products. Then in 2018, controversy erupted over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards illegal immigrants, which involved the separation of thousands of undocumented children from their parents. But after public outcry, Trump rescinded this policy. Trump’s term also saw the confirmation of three new justices to the Supreme Court, cementing a conservative majority.
In 2019, a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump had withheld foreign aid from Ukraine under the demand that they investigate the business dealings of the son of Trump’s political opponent. As a result, Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of congress, becoming the third president to have been impeached, but he was acquitted.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic having arrived in the United States in January 2020. As of March 2022, the U.S. has suffered more coronavirus deaths than any other nation. With the death toll standing at more than a million, it surpassed the number of U.S. deaths in the Korean War and Vietnam War combined. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. life expectancy fell by over a year in 2020 and unemployment rates rose to the worst rates since the Great Depression. The May 2020 murder of George Floyd caused mass protests and riots in many major cities over police brutality, with many states calling in the National Guard.
2020 was marked by a rise in domestic terrorist threats and widespread conspiracy theories around mail-in voting and COVID-19. The QAnon conspiracy theory, a fringe far-right political movement among some ardent conservatives, gained publicity and multiple major cities were hit by rioting and brawls between far-left antifascist affiliated groups and far right groups such as the Proud Boys.
Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the first defeat of an incumbent president since 1992. The election, with an exceptional amount of voting by mail and early voting due to the danger of contracting COVID-19 at traditional voting booths, had historically high voter turnout. Trump then repeatedly made false claims of massive voter fraud and election rigging, leading to the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol by supporters of Trump and right-wing militias. That storming led to Trump’s impeachment, as the only U.S president to be impeached twice. But the Senate later acquitted Trump, despite some members of his own Republican party voting against him.
Following Biden’s election, the date for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan was moved back from April to August 31, 2021. In Afghanistan, the withdrawal coincided with the 2021 Taliban offensive, culminating in the fall of Kabul. Following a massive airlift of over 120,000 people, the U.S. military mission formally ended on August 30, 2021.
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